Ice rink future in limbo
No news is not always good news.
At least it’s better than bad news.
Seven months after John Wareham told the South Lake Tahoe City Council he was confident about coming up with construction financing for his ice rink, he is still looking for that financing.
A potential investor from New York reportedly visited the site last week and left with a positive impression.
Similarly, a potential investor from Oklahoma visited Wareham and the rink in March and also expressed an interest in completing the project.
Both men reportedly have experience developing ice rinks and the resources to fund the South Lake Tahoe project.
To varying degrees, so have numerous other potential investors who have already come and gone.
Consequently, those close to the project are reserving their optimism for more solid results.
“I’m not optimistic until I see the checks,” said Don Radford, parks and recreation director for the city of South Lake Tahoe.
The city’s role in the rink is that of a landlord – leasing the 1.25-acre site at the Recreation Complex on Rufus Allen Boulevard to South Tahoe Ice Center, Inc. However, standing to gain 5 percent of the facility’s gross revenue in rent and in a valuable public amenity for townsfolk and visitor, city officials want the tenant to succeed.
Wareham, STIC’s president, concedes that the best hope right now to complete the rink is through an outside source to finance the project’s completion.
He had initially hoped to finance the rink through local sources and explored a private stock offering or a lease buy-out by local investors. Neither attempt succeeded.
Wareham in March considered a small corporate public stock offering in California and Nevada to pay a reported $230,000 in construction debts and finance completion of the rink.
However, he later learned that California law prohibits use of proceeds from such a stock offering to repay existing debts and scrapped this funding strategy.
Even without the construction financing in place, contractors – now owed several thousand dollars – helped get the rink open in late January to consistently large crowds.
Wareham estimates about 100 skaters per day on weekdays and about 300 per day on weekends at the site in February, which allowed the facility to gross $40,000 in public skating and concessions.
Wareham said the turnout exceeded projections for a time when the closure of U.S. Highway 50 resulted in lower than normal tourist visits to the area.
By March, however, warm temperatures, particularly direct sunlight on the rink surface, made it impossible to keep the ice frozen and the facility shut down.
Ironically, it was a severe winter storm beginning Dec. 20 that buried the rink in December and delayed the opening for about one month.
Earlier this month, Wareham and his staff attempted to suspend a reflective cover above the ice – a proposal that was also dealt a blow by Mother Nature. An ill-timed windstorm tore apart the attempted cover.
Now, Wareham does not expect to reopen this summer.
“We can run it as a seasonal rink from November to March,” he added. That’s what some resorts do. But the summer here is so busy, that to really maximize the facility, it would be really helpful to be open in the summer.”
Without some type of financing, however, the STIC’s ability to open at all, let alone during the warm weather months, appears in limbo.
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